Report finds faults in US housing effort in Haiti


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — An effort by Washington to build housing for Haitians in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake has fallen short and exceeded costs, a U.S. government report said Tuesday.

The audit by the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Agency for International Development said the project to build 4,000 houses outside Haiti’s capital resulted in the construction of only 816.

The U.S. plan also sought to provide “home sites” on which others would pay for the construction of houses. This, too, fell short, with USAID completing engineering and design services for only 2,300 home sites out of a projected 11,000.

The project was part of a broader effort to develop infrastructure and build homes on four settlements outside Port-au-Prince to alleviate overcrowding in the capital, a metropolitan area of 3 million people.

The audit is the latest by the U.S. government that has criticized efforts to provide housing or shelter for Haitians since the quake, which killed tens of thousands of people and destroyed about 105,000 homes.

At one time, as many as 1.5 million people lived in impromptu settlements in an around the capital following the disaster. But that number has since fallen to 137,500, the decline largely attributed to rental subsidies.

To compensate for the shortfall in the U.S. project, USAID increased funding from $55 million to $90 million and extended the completion date to October 2014, the audit said. But as of July 2013 the mission had approved construction contracts for only 906 houses and issued no contracts for providing basic services and infrastructure to the home sites. Current contracts provide only engineering services at 6,220 home sites.

Delays in construction were blamed on land tenure disputes, design changes, protests and an emphasis on using local labor and products.

USAID’s mission director in Haiti, John Groarke, said the agency’s efforts to house Haitians were “succeeding despite the many challenges of working in Haiti.” More than 328,000 people have benefited from USAID housing support since the quake, he said.

The agency will now try to build homes through the use of mortgages, Groarke said.

Two USAID audits published last year documented similar shortcomings.

USAID said such audits are a “welcome standard practice” for its programs worldwide and they help improve performance.


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